DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
DEVIL (director/writer: John Erick Dowdle; screenwriters: Brian Nelson/based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan; cinematographer: Tak Fujimoto; editor: Elliot Greenberg; music: Fernando Velázquez; cast: Chris Messina (Detective Bowden), Logan Marshall-Green (Mechanic/Tony), Jenny O’Hara (Old Woman), Bojana Novakovic (Young Woman/Sarah), Bokeem Woodbine (Guard/Ben), Geoffrey Arend (Salesman/Vince), Jacob Vargas (Ramirez), Matt Craven (Vito Lustig), Josh Peace (Detective Markowitz), Joe Cobden (Dwight, elevator mechanic); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: M. Night Shyamalan/Sam Mercer; Universal Pictures; 2010)

 
"Shyamalan's fingerprints are all over this gimmicky supernatural thriller, that comes with his usual third act twist."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

John Erick Dowdle ("Quarantine"/"The Dry Spell"/"The Poughkeepsie Tapes") efficiently directs this not so bad/not so good supernatural thriller that he co-writes with Brian Nelson. It's based on a story from the Night Chronicles project by M. Night Shyamalan. It plays out as an inferior cross between an Agatha Christie mystery story and a far-fetched supernatural thriller like Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (1976). Unfortunately it doesn't make much sense, is ultimately unconvincing and has more holes in it than Swiss cheese; but it kept me interested throughout mainly because of the stunning photography by Tak Fujimoto and that I couldn't resist wanting to know how far we were going with this hokum.

The action begins with a suicide from a skyscraper Philadelphia office building during the day. The investigators are Philadelphia detectives Bowden (Chris Messina), still not fully recovered that his wife and kid were killed by a still on the loose hit-and-run driver five years ago, and his loyal assistant Markowitz (Josh Peace). While there they learn of a stuck elevator between the 20th and 21st floors with five people trapped inside and turn their attention to that incident. Strange things happen, as a mysterious wound appears on one of the stuck riders and soon they start picking on each other and then seemingly picking each other off one by one. Bowden learns the five passengers all have serious character flaws: The smarmy mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend) was involved in a Ponzi scam, the hostile temp security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) has an arrest record for assault, the attractive young lady (Bojana Novakovic) is a blackmailer who married the head of the building's security company, the suspicious mechanic job applicant and former marine (Logan Marshall-Green) who fought in Afghanistan left his canvas bag of tools in the bathroom, and the grouchy old lady (Jenny O’Hara) is a mystery person who is caught on the lobby camera as a pickpocket and didn't sign the sign-in book in the lobby and possesses an expired can of Mace that doesn't work.

The two security guards who manage the video tape of the elevator occupants are the level-headed Lustig (Matt Craven) and the religious fanatic Ramirez (Jacob Vargas), who believes the devil is responsible for these crimes and warns us from time to time that the devil can take many forms. Detective Bowden's theory is that there's a killer in the elevator with a motive to make it look like a serial killer in action when he's only after after one specific vic. Of course, in this silly film, Ramirez's devil theory turns out to be the logical one-- that one of the riders is disguised as the devil.

Shyamalan's fingerprints are all over this gimmicky supernatural thriller, that comes with his usual third act twist. But since he's not directing it, the film manages to be surprisingly watchable, fairly entertaining and its schlocky execution turns out to be a great benefit to its sketchy religion-themed plot of Old Testament revenge and New Testament forgiveness.

REVIEWED ON 9/23/2010       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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